Businessperson of the Month: Kerry Beary of Atomic Pop Shop

Atomic Pop ShopIMG_1074

Owner, Kerry and Jeff Beary

2963 Government Street

(225) 771-8455

Kerry Beary and her husband Jeff have owned The Atomic Pop Shop since May 2011. Before that, they were selling records and other vintage goods out of spaces rented in local antique stores; when the space in the Ogden Park area of Government Street opened up, they jumped at the chance.

Neither has a background in music. Kerry has a master’s degree in fine arts, and her husband has a master’s in communications, “but we both love records, and we always collected records,” said Kerry. “It was something that, you know, to do something you love in your daily life, it was kind of a natural thing.”

The couple moved from New York after 9/11, where Kerry worked as a teacher and painted and drew on the side. “I wanted to have a space where I could showcase it, and found that here.” Much of their collection was drawn from record shows and yard sales after the vinyl crash of the nineties. “It got harder and harder to find records, so you had to seek them out in other places.”

“We never approached it as, we’re opening a record store. We’re opening a vintage shop, and we just happen to sell records. And it’s just kind of developed into, or morphed into, more of a record shop, because the demand has asked for it.”

Even so, the Atomic Pop Shop still isn’t just a record store – an expansion in 2013 gave them a performance space, which features all-ages shows of local and touring bands almost every weekend. Kerry also uses the space as an art gallery, and they’ve set up a couple of vintage arcade games just for fun. They feel that it’s important to create a space that will help build the community, particularly via all-ages live shows. The store sponsored the Ogden Park Prowl, providing all the live music, as well as Midcity-area events like the Art Hop and White Light Night. They hope to do so again this year.

Baton Rouge is a great place for this kind of community-focused event because, Kerry says, “People like to stay home more, and if they can do things within their community, it’s a bigger incentive to get out and do things with their family. I also think people take a lot of pride in where they live, so it’s something that, if you can show off your neighborhood, and show not only that you have these wonderful things going on with your neighbors, but you can also draw in things from the outside that make it interesting, it does nothing but showcase your neighborhood and make people want to live there.”

When asked about the best way to start developing an interest in vinyl records, Kerry said that it was important not to be afraid to spend money. “You get what you pay for. So if you’re going to invest in records, which, just like anything else, costs money, they’re a little pricier than CDs, but the sound quality speaks for itself. […] What’s the point of buying something that’s supposed to sound amazing and sounds like you’re in a tin can?” There are a lot of cutesy brands out there – she refused to name names, but if you’ve ever been to Urban Outfitters before, you may be able to guess – that focus on style and aren’t as worried about quality. The players don’t cost much, but they’re also not likely to last very long, and poor-quality needles can actually damage records: the death knell for a serious collection. The best way, she said, was to try to find an older turntable, “the older, the better”; they tend to be higher quality. “Spend the money. Do it. Do it now, and you don’t have to worry about it.” Atomic Pop Shop will repair vintage turntables and other forms of older audio equipment, and will make digital copies of analog home recordings.

“I think that anyone that has ears, just like anyone who enjoys comic books, they’re going to want quality in what they’re doing. When you collect something, even if you feel you need to have this because it may be worth something someday, that’s great, but the majority of our customers, they just want the music.

“You know, and I feel that over the last, maybe even just the last three years, the majority of our customer base was eighty percent men. It’s started to change. We’re about sixty-forty now, which is pretty sweet. I like that. I like that a lot. Because, you know, why should guys have all the fun?”

“We don’t need to stand here and judge.”

The Bearys are also interested in preserving local music artists, and have found that the library is a great resource for research. The Main Library, which hosts the Baton Rouge Room’s local history collection, is barely a few miles away. Kerry often sends dedicated collectors there for background information. “It’s a great place to sample music or to listen to something that I don’t have. When I was a kid, the library had records,” she laughed. “We do send lots of folks to the library to help them find rare, hard-to-find information, [but] a lot of it’s unwritten, and a lot of it gets lost as folks get older.”

“And that library is just gorgeous. Even if you don’t have a reason to go to the library, now you do, because it’s just beautiful.” (We think so, too.)

“We’ve got a huge local section here that we are very proud of. Because, you know, everyone’s related to someone that sang a record, in Baton Rouge, or performed on a record, because there’s so much history here. Cajun music, and zydeco. It’s a very close connection. Unfortunately, lots of people throw them away, because they don’t think they’re valuable anymore. They don’t understand that they’re throwing away a piece of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, history. These are local labels, local artists, that you would never hear of anywhere else.”

“I think that owning a business is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Harder than teaching, harder than getting through college. Because it’s so much minutiae, and so much unexpected stuff, and having a building, and dealing with all of that – but always striving to stay true to our mission, which is basically a comfortable place where people can come to chill out. Listen to music, chat a little bit, play some pinball, play some Pac Man, you know, just browse around, maybe learn something, and share it with people.”

“Kindness is just the way to do it.”


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